Championship not in cards for Sadler By Shawn A. Akers BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (Jan. 5, 1999) Elliott Sadler didn't accomplish everything he wanted to in just two short years in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division. One thing's for...
Championship not in cards for Sadler By Shawn A. Akers
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (Jan. 5, 1999) Elliott Sadler didn't accomplish everything he wanted to in just two short years in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division. One thing's for sure, though -- he certainly had a lot of fun trying. Sadler, who'll move up to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 1999 as a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate driving for the Wood Brothers, didn't win the NASCAR Busch Series championship for Diamond Ridge Motorsports this past season. After coming into 1998 with such promise, the young Virginia native managed only five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. He did, however, earn two more victories during the year, pushing his career NASCAR Busch Series total to five, and he earned his second consecutive top-10 finish in the point standings, coming home eighth. "When we started out this season, our goal was to win the Busch Series championship," Sadler said. "It didn't work out that way, and it has been a pretty frustrating season for everyone. A lot of times this year we would have great cars and get into trouble late in the race. We had great cars at our last two races in Atlanta and Homestead and just got into trouble. That's just the way this racing business goes. "Although we didn't have the kind of season we were expecting, we did experience some pretty good success. We won two races and we won them at tracks we weren't expecting to win. I never would have dreamed that I would win at Bristol and Rockingham before the start of this season. We also won the pole at Texas and was on the outside pole a few times. With that kind of success, you really can't be too disappointed." The year began with a resounding thud for Sadler, who finished 36th in the season-opener at Daytona. He rebounded to finish sixth the following week at Rockingham, and a few weeks later, found his way to Victory Lane in the Moore's Snacks 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway. A second-place finish at Texas followed, but that would be the only solace in the following weeks for the driver of the No. 66 Phillips Chevrolet. Sadler encountered every problem in the book thereafter, from getting involved in wrecks to engine trouble. In the next 10 races, Sadler managed just one top-10 finish, an eighth-place run at Nazareth, where he had posted the first victory of his NASCAR Busch Series career in 1997. Methodically, Sadler slipped out of the top-10 in the standings, until a 10th-place finish at Myrtle Beach stemmed that tide. That proved to be the tonic Sadler needed in the short term, as three more top-10 finishes ensued at California, South Boston and Indianapolis, respectively. He finished second in the Kroger 200 at Indianapolis to Dale Earnhardt Jr. Like before, however, inconsistency once again began to plague the team thereafter. In the final 10 events of the season, Sadler posted only one top-10 finish, to go along with six finishes outside the top-20, including a 37th-place run at Atlanta and a 36th-place run in the season finale at Homestead. The one top-10 effort was another win, this time in the ACDelco 200 on the mile oval of North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. It was an emotional victory for Sadler, who had been hoping to give his team and his crew one last win before heading up the NASCAR ladder. Sadler will run next season for the NASCAR Winston Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year, along with such notables as Buckshot Jones and Tony Stewart. He'll be driving the No. 21 Citgo Ford, a long-standing symbol of excellence, for the Wood Brothers. "I wish we could have run for the championship this season, but we just didn't get the breaks we needed to make that happen," Sadler said. "I've had real mixed emotions about moving up to Winston Cup. It's been a dream of mine since I was a little kid, but I am going to miss all the guys on this Phillips 66 team. "Gary Bechtel (owner, Diamond Ridge Motorsports) gave me an opportunity when no one else in the Busch Series would. (Crew chief) Sandy Jones and all the guys at Diamond Ridge are the reason I've been able to enjoy some pretty good success in the Busch Series."
Source: NASCAR Online